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Fit to Write
by Michael Knowles
inspiration has eluded you, perhaps your inspirational muse does not feel
welcome. Find writing inspiration by working towards inspirational
How's your writing muscle?
Is it the lean kind, the sort that brings stamina for the long,
detailed work? Is the the bulging, powerful kind, well-suited for
splitting the pile of issues that the essayist loves to confront?
Or is your writing muscle the 98-pound weakling of the
article sponsored by:
When you find yourself having trouble sticking with a piece,
sometimes the reason is that the writing muscle isn't strong
enough for the task. That's not necessarily the only reason, of
course -- it might simply be that you aren't interested in the
subject -- but often the challenge of a new article, manual, or
book feels as though it's too much to handle.
That's when we take a little exercise to benefit our writing
muscle. Writing muscle exercise prepares us for the deep,
challenging work, and helps us write through the anxieties and
fears that we as writers face from time to time.
Here's a four-point writing exercise plan that will keep your
writing muscle ready for whatever comes its way.
1. The Long-Distance Reader
You've heard this advice, what, a thousand times? Read to write.
But how many of us really make the time to read? I mean read
widely, every day, not only in your primary field but sampling
from the writing food groups: novels, short fiction, essays,
nonfiction books, poetry, and newspapers. There are, no doubt,
days that demand our full attention to writing, but we usually
have ample time in which to read a little.
Reading is probably the best way to improve your writing muscle
tone. It exposes us to other styles, techniques, and
presentations that infuse our own work with freshness and vigor.
Reading expands our points-of-view and broadens perspective.
Oh, yes, it's entertaining, too.
2. Daily Writing Practice
For those of us who write daily, It's easy to question the need
for writing practice. "I write every day," you might say. "I'm
practicing all the time." But I distinguish work-writing from
writing practice. Work-writing has a certain focus and mindset to
it -- a certain blinding sameness that we do not often recognize.
Writing practice, on the other hand, is more about the act of
writing itself. The subject matter is secondary.
You are its only audience.
My daily writing practice takes the form of journaling. I
generally being with my emotions and wind my way down whatever
road congeals out of the morning fog. I like the feeling of
freedom that writing practice gives, and I like being able to
explore without a particular goal.
Daily writing practice is a great source of ideas, too. This
article arose during writing practice, and I've worked through
many a thorny problem simply by setting my pen onto paper and
watching what happens.
The best byproduct of writing practice: You build the stamina
needed for the longer pieces.
Start training now
for a rewarding career as a
as little as nine months, you could be writing articles and stories for
magazines, newspapers, and more — and making money doing
3. Writing Stretch
There's nothing that stretches your writing muscle like writing
on unfamiliar subjects or in an unfamiliar style. That feeling of
tension you get when you approach the foreign idea is the signal
that says, "Ah, you need this." As one of my yoga teachers once told me, "Achy,
no breaky." She meant that the ache I feel in new
positions isn't a bad thing. It is a signal that the area needs
The writing stretch produces elasticity of the mind and often
opens new territory for the frustrated writer. Try writing a
little poetry -- a sonnet gives you a great stretch, as do
limericks. Or put your hand to an op-ed piece, an essay, or short
Stretch your writing muscle frequently. And don't be surprised if
you discover a whole new field that's been waiting for someone
just like you.
4. Weight Training
The heavy lifting. White papers, sociopolitical studies, memoirs,
book reviews. Even humor can be heavy lifting for some of us.
Your writing muscle needs the exertion required by a heavy piece
from time to time.
Heaviness in writing terms is subjective: What heavy lifting is
for one writing might be trivial for another. Find the material
that challenges your writing muscle, that makes you sweat just to
think of it, and work out with it. Too few writers tackle the
heavy stuff, but those that do come away with a new confidence in
themselves. There's nothing quite like finishing a particularly
difficult bit of work and enjoying the feeling of triumph.
Triumph in this sense has nothing to do with how the audience
perceives your work. It's like finishing the first draft of a
novel, something that few have done. Even if no one ever reads
it, you come in contact with an inner strength that you didn't
know you had.
It is that strength that helps us write and succeed where others
So, the next time you feel a little stale in the writing muscle,
try a four-point writing exercise plan. And watch your writing
Copyright (c) 2003 by Michael Knowles. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author:
Michael Knowles is an author, business communications coach, and
marketing specialist who helps small businesses and professionals
increase profits and better serve their customers and clients.
Michael publishes WriteThinking (http://www.WriteThinking.net/)
and is author of the soon-to-be-released 101 Creativity Exercises
for Writers. Contact him at